48 hours in Jerusalem
Every step you take in this holy city reveals an aspect of its tangled history

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Jerusalem is 50km south-east of Tel Aviv airport. Sheruts (shared taxis) shuttle to Jerusalem for 58 Israeli shekels (NIS58, about £10). Run by Nesher (00 972 2625 7227; neshertours.co.il), they take about an hour. Private taxis are about NIS300 (£50). The more scenic train ride (NIS22/ £3.70) threads through the hills to Jerusalem Malha station (2) – take a train to Tel Aviv HaHagana station and change (rail.co.il). It takes two and a quarter hours.
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A holy city in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem is nominally the "eternal, indivisible" capital of Israel, and is also claimed as the capital of a future Palestinian state. No borders exist within the city, though divisions of language and culture are sharp.
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Jerusalem's most recognisable building is the golden Dome of the Rock, a seventh-century Islamic shrine within the walled Old City. It sits on a high platform known as Haram Al Sharif or Temple Mount
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Islam's third most-revered mosque, Al Aqsa
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The Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site
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Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity's most venerated site
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Of the Old City's eight gates, Damascus Gate is the main exit to East Jerusalem, the Arabic-speaking, Palestinian part of town, centred on the shops and cafés of Salah Ed-Din Street
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Jaffa Gate accesses Hebrew-speaking West Jerusalem, focused on the shopping artery of Jaffa Road
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For Old City atmosphere, the 19th-century Austrian Hospice, at 37 Via Dolorosa (00 972 2626 5800; austrianhospice. com), is unbeatable. Dorms €24 per person, doubles €114, both with breakfast.
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Outside the walls, at budget level opt for Abraham Hostel, 67 HaNeviim Street (00 972 2650 2200; abrahamhostel.com), amid West Jerusalem's bustle. Dorms from NIS72 (£12), doubles NIS270 (£45), breakfast extra
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The Jerusalem Hotel on Nablus Road (0800 328 2393; jrshotel.com) offers outstanding character. Doubles from US$190 (£127), room only
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At the top end, aim for West Jerusalem's Mamilla Hotel, 11 King Solomon St (00 972 2548 2222; mamillahotel.com; doubles with breakfast from US$310/£207)
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For historic charm go to East Jerusalem's American Colony, 1 Louis Vincent St (00 972 2627 9777; americancolony.com); doubles with breakfast from US$380 (£253)
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Jerusalem's crenellated walls were completed in 1541 under Suleiman the Magnificent and stand an average of 12 metres high. Pass through at Jaffa gate, knocked through by the Ottomans in 1898 to allow Kaiser Wilhelm's entourage to enter
Bucketlisted 1 times
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Once inside, head across Omar bin Al-Khattab Square, overlooked by the circular Tower of David (actually a 17th-century minaret) to the stone-flagged David Street. This is the start of Jerusalem's covered souks, stepped downhill – the further down you go, the less touristy it becomes. In the cool gloom ahead lurk alleyways given over to spices, textiles and freshly-butchered meat.
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Turn right at the bottom to walk beside the Byzantine-era Cardo into the Jewish Quarter, largely destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 and rebuilt by Israel after 1967.
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Past Hurva Square, alleyways lead out to the 19-metre-high Western Wall (open 24 hours; free; thekotel.org), built in about 20BC to buttress the Second Temple on the platform above. Anyone may approach: men (who will be handed a skullcap) pray to the left, women to the right. Nearby, beside Dung Gate, Batei Mahse Street hugs the walls past Zion Gate and through the quiet Armenian Quarter.
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Take Christian Quarter Road to the Crusader-built Church of the Holy Sepulchre (daily 5am–8pm; free; holysepulchre.com), site of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection and the culmination of the Via Dolorosa – the route Jesus followed while carrying the cross. It's a dim, incense-heavy place, crammed with pilgrims queuing to get into the small marble chamber at its centre holding Christ's tomb.
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Behind the church, narrow Souk Khan Al Zeit, the Muslim Quarter's main shopping street, bamboozles with commerce and activity. Let the promenading crowds carry you forwards to leave the Old City at grand Damascus Gate
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Grab a table at Abu Shukri, 63 Al Wad Road (daily 8am-4.30pm; 00 972 2627 1538) to sample some of Jerusalem's finest: hummus, served with crispy falafel balls, fresh bread and salad, for under NIS35 (£6) per head
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Across the deep Kidron Valley in East Jerusalem rises the Mount of Olives, mentioned frequently in the New Testament and dotted with landmark churches. Stroll and meditate amid wildflowers and ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, which spreads around the 20th-century Church of All Nations (daily 8am-11.30am; again 2pm-5pm), built where Jesus received Judas's kiss of betrayal
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At sunset, head up to the summit of the Mount of Olives, to the west-facing viewpoint (20) by the Seven Arches Hotel, to watch the sun sinking behind the holy city.
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By nightfall the Old City has emptied: culinary excellence lies elsewhere. Tucked away in West Jerusalem's old train station compound, HaChatzer, 7 Bethlehem Road (00 972 2671 9922), offers delicious Israeli-Mediterranean cooking in intimate bistro-style surroundings. Middle Eastern influences show in the signature dish – an artfully presented mezze platter with Moroccan bread (NIS60/£10).
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Get up early to visit the most beautiful Islamic building in the world, the Dome of the Rock. Non-Muslims may enter only via the Magharba Gate (Sun-Thu 7.30-10.30am and 1.30-2.30pm; noblesanctuary.com), which leads onto the Haram Al Sharif. This paved plaza dotted with monuments, shrines and fountains was formerly the site of the Jewish Temple of Solomon (destroyed in 586BC) and Second Temple (destroyed in AD70). At its centre the golden dome, 20 metres in diameter, seemingly floats above an octagonal enclosure clad in dazzling green and blue Iznik tiles. This is not a mosque, but a shrine built in AD691 over the rock on which Abraham intended to sacrifice his son (Isaac in Genesis; presumed to be Ishmael in the Quran) and from which Muhammad ascended to heaven. Across the plaza, Al Aqsa Mosque was rebuilt in the 11th century and can hold 5,000 worshippers. Its lofty interior is supported by 45 columns and includes an exquisite pulpit of carved wood. This was installed in 2007 as a replica of Saladin's original, built in 1187 but destroyed by an arsonist in 1969.
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Mahane Yehuda is West Jerusalem's souk (shuk in Hebrew), a madhouse of stalls selling everything from peanuts to persimmons. Hunt the alleyways for Ima, 189 Agrippas Street (00 972 2624 6860; imarestaurant.com), a stone-vaulted den serving Kurdish home cooking. Try the signature kubbeh soup – meat dumplings in a red beet broth (NIS35/£6).
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Buy a tram ticket (price NIS6.40/£1) from a street-side kiosk. Jump on a tram – there's only one line, running from Damascus Gate and along Jaffa Road. A short walk from the Mount Herzl stop at the western terminus, amid forested hills on the city's outskirts, lies Israel's Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem (yadvashem.org) – sobering, moving, disturbing but unmissable. It opens Sun-Wed 9am-5pm, Thurs 9am-8pm, Fri 9am-2pm, free.
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Museum on the Seam is a unique museum in Israel, displaying contemporary art that deals with different aspects of the socio-political reality. Through the works of artists from Israel and abroad who respond to the tension between and within groups, the Museum invites visitors to examine the degree of influence of the social environment on the individual, and vice versa. Between the local and the universal, the pluralistic and extreme ideologies, the Museum calls for listening and discussion, for accepting 'the other' who is different from us, and for respecting our fellow human beings and their liberty.
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Ever tried to think of what it would be like to stand “just off the center of the world” and see ALL of Jerusalem in a glance? There is one such place – on the roof-top of the junction between David Street (the market) and Chabbad (Habbad) Street. How to get there: You can come down Chabbad Street from the Jewish Quarter and at the corner of Chabbad Street and St. Mark’s Street (just before you reach David Street) you will see on your right a metal staircase leading up to the roof. If you come down David Street (from the Jaffa Gate) you make a right into Chabbad Street, at the end of the first set of steps the metal staircase will be on your left. Climb up the stairs until you reach the rooftop and continue straight ahead (walking north) for 50 meters until you see a slightly elevated roof-top with 2+3 steps to get to the top and a tall fence to the north of that rooftop. That is your destination. Be careful on rainy days – it is very slippery. You are now standing “just off the center of the world”.





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